Style: Romantic music for cello and various ensembles composed between the 17th and 20th centuries and recorded between 1978 and 2006.
Worldview: "There are great classical traditions everywhere. So between Persian classical music, Indian classical music, Azeri classical music, and so forth, there's so much to explore. In this day and age, we should know the world" (the notes).
Overall quality: A representative but by no means exhaustive "greatest hits."
Style: Elizabethan songs for lute and tenor voice plus a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of Songs from the Labyrinth.
Worldview: "I have been driven by love and curiosity, and exploring the life and music of John Dowland has challenged and broadened my musical life, and for that I am more than grateful" (the notes).
Overall quality: The documentary stimulates mind, eye, and ear; the CD is a charming soundtrack.
Style: Elizabethan songs for lute and tenor voice.
Worldview: "[In darkness let me dwell is] among the . . . great soliloquies of the Elizabethan Age, reminding us that while there may be tragedy within a life, life itself is not tragic" (the notes).
Overall quality: Edin Karamazov's playing is as moving as Sting's attempt to subject his "unschooled tenor" to the demands of a genre antedating the Police by 400 years.
Style: Violinist Bell, accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, giving "voice" to compositions (Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, et al.) traditionally associated with singers.
Worldview: "While there will always be people who prefer to listen to music in its originally intended form, I hope many listeners will . . . get a kick out of hearing my take on these timeless classics" (the notes).
Overall quality: Straightforward, sober, gimmick-free.
Style: Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Glinka for soprano voice and the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre.
Worldview: "[S]ince tradition lives by performance and by vital, fresh interpretations, this recital leaves no doubt that the soprano repertoire has found a new incarnation in Anna Netrebko" (the notes).
Overall quality: Writes Jay Nordlinger in National Review: "Netrebko's timbre tends to suit Russian music, and her use of the language is enchanting."
Like many openly liberal musicians, Sting often undercuts his good intentions and his music with pomposity. In tackling the songs of John Dowland (1563-1626) with the lutenist Edin Karamazov, however, the former Police frontman has checked his ego in two ways: by refusing credit for re-discovering Dowland (he admits recording the songs only after much prodding) and by being willing to appear vulnerable in his struggle to do the songs justice.
Because Sting's struggle is only partly successful, listeners may want to bypass the music-only Songs from the Labyrinth (Deutsche Grammophon) in favor of The Journey & the Labyrinth. Besides containing a CD of a Sting-Karamazov concert (enlivened by Sting's performing one song apiece by Elizabethan composer Robert Johnson and by American blues legend Robert Johnson), The Journey contains an informative and artful documentary DVD that may persuade Sting's fans to investigate the glories of the past.